Monday, October 17, 2016

October Tide

Tim and I have a commitment to do Qi Gung at the beach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:15. We have been going rain or shine for several years now. Sometimes a seal will watch us. Once we watched eagles mating high up in a Douglas Fir. Once we saw sea lions playing close to shore.

Sea Lettuce at Tramp Harbor
Some days are so foggy we cannot see the other side of the Bay, let alone Seattle or Des Moines. Some days feel quiet, with soft gray clouds and smooth water. Some days the rain drops make a pattern of circles on the water. Some days the sky is so blue, you want to sing.

In October, little birds flock together and practice arial maneuvers above us. A line of foam accentuates the green of the seaweed bunched at the tide line.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Walking with camera in hand

What is it about this photo that makes me want to translate it into silk?

This was taken in winter; see the frost on the piling? It was high tide at KVI beach--one of my favorite walks. I used to walk here as I recovered from surgery, with camera in hand and eyes open to the designs in nature. When I struggled with depression during the "change of life", walking with camera in hand lightened my mood. When I ran the school in my home, I made it a point to walk here once a week, to calm and nourish my soul so that I had more to give the children.

I am very fond of diagonals lately.
I love the strong design element in this photo, and the colors.  It has been on my mind for almost two years, to create a piece on silk with this inspiration. I am planning to include the finished piece in a body of work I am calling Where Land Meets Sea. It will show in May and June at Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

After the Feast: Silk Art in Progress

The Native Americans gather from all over the North West U.S. and Canada, by canoe, to potlatch,
Photo taken at Port Gamble
renew relationship ties, practice native languages, and honor traditions. Sometimes we have accompanied one of them as a support boat. If a paddler needs a break from the canoe for any reason, we are there with blankets, hot drinks, and a working toilet.

One year we met them at  Port Gamble, a former lumber town on Keystone Peninsula, for a clam and crab bake. From there, we accompanied the Blue Heron canoe to Port Townsend. Mike Evens was the skipper of the canoe, which represented the Duwamish people. His paddlers were all ages, including teens and sometimes a really young passenger. Many a lost young person has found themselves and turned their lives around with the support of the Canoe Journey.

The year we met the Blue Heron canoe at Nisqually, a young woman--I think she was 14 years old--came aboard for some quiet time. She showed me a scar on her ankle where she had carved her boyfriend's initials. She spent some time in introspection on the bunk under our NW carving of Raven, which happened to be her totem.

"After the Feast"--a work in progress
A few years later I met her again, doing a presentation about the Canoe Journey with Mike Evens. What a strong competent young woman she had become! So proud to have been a small part of that transformation!

The photo I took at the clam/crab bake reminds me of her. I love the colors and I love being reminded of the community and camaraderie of that time. I think of these as I work on "After the Feast" in silk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spare Change; a Widow's Journey

There's something about the places where land and sea meet, that really resonate with me. Whether sailing in the Puget Sound and the Canadian Gulf Islands or doing Qi Gung on the beach, I can't help but gather images that might later become paintings.

I am working on a series of silk pieces--partly painted and partly "art Quilt"--inspired by photos I've taken over the years. Some of these have been nagging at me to paint them for almost a decade, like this one of Spare Change on Goat Island.

Spare Change on Goat Island
Spare Change on Goat Island speaks to my heart because I took it after my husband Bob died. Bob and I sailed our boat Sea Change among the Gulf Islands in Canada for several years. Spare Change was--still is--the dingy.

When Bob was nearing death and knew he would no longer be able to sail, I told him I would sail when he was gone, no matter what the weather. That's when he knew that I would be OK. He told me he would be "the wind on my cheeks".

Bob died in July. I taught my son James to sail, and we took off for the San Juans and the Gulf Islands for a month. It was my time to come to terms with Bob's death, to learn to "skipper my own boat". There were times I was terrified to leave harbor, and James and I stayed at anchor for two days until I was ready to move on. There were times I felt Bob so close, I knew he would be a part of me always.

Goat Island is a small piece of land and rock in the harbor by Ganges, Canada, one of our favorite stops. Bob and I never landed on it, but James and I did. James and I visited many places Bob and I loved and also had new adventures.

Spare Change on Goat Island is about building on the Love and Adventuring Bob and I shared and continuing to love and to explore life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Call Me a Tree Hugger

I have always loved trees. As a child I was a tree climber. As a young woman, I sensed a communication with an old Douglas Fir outside a friend's house. Really. I reached out to the tree in my mind, and I felt--sensed--the tree respond. Not in words of course.

Later, as a teacher of young children, I was gathering fir branches to decorate the classroom, for a unit on NW Native Americans. I had clippers in hand, but could not bring myself to cut branches from living trees. It felt like I was cutting off their fingers. In my mind, I said to the tree, "I need some greens for my classroom." I looked around, and there was a large branch full and green laying on the ground!

I used that, of course, hung it from the ceiling.  It gave us the feeling of being in the forest.

Every point of land here in the Puget Sound seems to have a Cedar or Douglas Fir leaning out over the water, like a sentinel.

I've heard that pioneers used fir or pine needles to make a tea rich in vitamin C. Native Americans used Cedar bark for clothing, ropes, to weave into blankets. The roots they made into baskets, and the trunk made their canoes. I can imagine each tree being asked it's permission before it's bark or trunk was used.

Just being among trees or standing at the foot of one gives me a sense of comfort. I feel protected when I lean against the trunk of an evergreen. Trees are like friends.

OK, call me a tree hugger. I am  not offended.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Steaming Silk Dyes at Home

Have you checked out the cost of a steamer for steaming silks? OMG! Not in my budget! Luckily there are other solutions.

I can steam 4-6 scarves at home on  my stove this way:
1. Lay out a piece of cotton wide enough and long enough for two scarves laid side by side.
2. Lay the scarves on top.
3. Cover with  three layers of old newspapers (at least 30 days old).
4. Repeat if you have more scarves. I find 3 layers of scarves is max.
5. Roll into a cylinder, starting at the top of the scarves.

6. Roll this into a spiral.
7. Wrap in newspaper; tape or tie shut.
8.  Put about 2" or so of water in a large pot.
9. Put in something to hold silk package up out of the water. I found an old cake pan about 3" deep and my husband cut holes in it to let the steam through.
10. Cover with a folded towel or a lot of newspapers.
11. Steam as long as your dye requires. I steam red label Jaquard dyes for up to 2 hours including time it takes to heat up the pan.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Green Gate-a fantasy painting in process

There is something mysterious about this gate. It intrigues me. I took its photo on the way to a Sufi gathering last month, and it still calls to me. Inspires me.

Today I began figuring out how I might paint it.

Just a quick watercolor, I thought, just to put some color on paper.

But then I began analyzing it. What is it that calls to me so? How do the composition and values work to draw the eye  back to that bright spot? How might I change the composition to make it more effective?

Now I've really opened the gate to inspirations!

What if I make the gate a different style? The style would reflect the world behind the gate, the world the gate leads to. What world do I want it to lead to? What styles of gate are possible?

So I spent some time on the computer getting ideas. Wow!
I know what I don't want. I don't want a modern looking gate, or a polished wood gate, or a gate you can see clearly through. I don't want a wrought iron gate.

Definitely a wooden gate. Maybe you can just see little peeks of garden between the boards. Do I want a window in the gate? Should the gate be freshly painted? Or weathered?

And what style of hinge might my gate have? The hinge can be anything! It can be a plain wrought iron rectangle, black or rusted. It can be a dragon! It can even be invisible, on the other side.

And what about the latch?

Should the gate have an ornament on it, a little plaque perhaps?

Well, of course the answers depend on what the world behind the gate will look like, the story the gate is in.

Again, more ideas of what I want and what I don't want.

Not a romance with roses, not a garden where lovers roam. Maybe in another painting.

Not a haunted house, or a brick cottage garden. Not, I think, an English country garden. Nothing formal.

A Fairyland?
A castle garden?
A place of mystery, definitely! With a figure in red at the top of the stairs, just going out of sight to the right.

I could use one palate of colors on this side of the gate, and another set on the other side; for example, I might have predominately reds and golds on one side, and blues and greens on the other side. Or one side could be monochromatic. Or the whole painting could be monochromatic with just little bits of a contrasting color to attract the eye.

Color will be very important to convey mood.

Looking at the photo again, maybe I don't want to make big changes. Not for the first go, anyway.

This could be the beginning of a series of gate paintings, each leading to a different world or a different mood. Or the lead in to a fantasy world where my stories take place.

Or it could express the Sufi world I entered into that day....

But I do want a woman in a long red dress at the top of the stairs, just disappearing off to the right.

What do you think?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Opening Reception for the Art Show--Worth It?

I had a great time at the opening reception for my show at Vashon Tea Shop Friday night! Thanks to all who came!

Before the reception,  I worried that the music from the Vashon Book Shop next door would drown out Kat Egglestons's wonderful guitar playing at the opening reception. I worried that no one would come. I worried that my work would not show well. I worried that no one would like my work.

 I worried, I was suddenly exhausted from the work of putting up the show, I had that sinking feeling one gets after spending a lot of energy on something and fearing it won't work out.

I do not plan to sell any of the art. I am showing illustrations from past and current work, both studies and published. Nothing I am ready to let go of. I do hope to encourage people to buy the published books, Peacock Princess and Atom's Monster, either directly from me on my web site, or from Vashon Book Shop. And I want to kind of "prime the pump", to begin to get people interested in my current project, "Troll Story".

My accountant would say this was a disaster. I spent weeks preparing the show, and during the reception I sold only two books, Atom's Monster for $5 ea--and that thanks to my husband! He is the one who kept showing my books to people! I was too shy....

 No one showed up for the first 1/2 hour or 45 minutes. I did not communicate well with the book shop to make sure they had copies. My publicist was tearing her hair out!


I had a wonderful time and so did everyone who came!

Was it worth doing? Absolutely!
Well.....It's difficult to put into words. The value can't be measured in dollars.  It isn't about "networking".

For me the interactions with friends I had not seen for awhile, with people friends brought in to see the show, with people I was meeting for the first time--these interactions nourish me. Maybe it's about being recognized as the artist, the creator of something worth coming to see, being focus of attention.

Maybe it's about the exchange of ideas. Or the music. Or the general joyful feeling that filled the space.

I feel like it is community building. Creating a common happy experience for people.  Sharing my joy. And that is important to me.

Sharing my joy.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fall watercolor painting; next step

To review: we started with a light pencil sketch and a couple of ink lines,  then painted in the lightest colors:
We used some "negative painting" to define the shape of the orange tree by painting around it with a medium value green.

Now come the dark colors. Add the darks last. You can always make things darker, but in watercolor, you can't make things lighter. Well, unless you use gouche paints, but that's another story. Notice how the dark green makes the orange and the yellow green trees more vibrant.
The very darkest colors give the whole painting a vibrancy and guide your eye around the painting, while a few ink lines define a bit of detail. I used a white jelly pen to add highlights and to give your eye a nice paved pathway, so to say .

Mondays I plan to introduce some common watercolor techniques, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Troll for You and a Troll for Me

Troll from Atom's Monster
Something about trolls fascinates me. A troll in my first children's book, Atom's Monster, is the
catalyst for change, helping the boy hero to move from fear to courage--though not in the most comfortable way! I wrote the story for my 4 year old son Atom, when he was having nightmares, and found that the story was loved by many 3-5 yr olds.

The troll isn't TOO scary; as Atom says, he "doesn't look as though he eats little boys"! In fact, his beard and patched pants might have reminded the real Atom of his beloved papa.

We imagined trolls in the woods a generation later, when Atom's son was 4 years old, and a very different troll emerged. For one thing, the boy's fears and frame of reference were different.

 I think the troll my grandson was afraid of was based on the troll under the Freemont Bridge in Seattle--a monster bigger than a house! It eats VW's for heavens sake! And to think there might be trolls such as this in our woods--pretty scary!

 He would not go into the woods after that, even with his grandmother. Something had to be done.
Troll; work in progress

The boy's parents suggested he could make friends with the trolls by giving them fish heads, and so a new Troll Story was born.

This troll needed to be scary/not scary. It needed to embody the strangeness and wildness of the woods, but not be overpowering, so  I made it wild and animalistic, but childlike.

The teeth, the fir, the ears, the whiskers, all make it animalistic--almost cat like. Since the family has cats, this brings a familiarity to the troll, making it less frightening.

The big head and eyes, childlike expression, and bare tummy with the belly button showing make it even less threatening. Size is important, too. This troll is actually smaller than the boy.
Troll; work in progress

This story is a work in progress, and I will be showing drafts of it, along with published and unpublished paintings from Atom's Monster and my coloring storybook, Peacock Princess, at the Vashon Tea Shop, during February and March.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Some Character Development

I am learning to use the shapes in a character's face to define a character so that I can make the same character again as well as to give an indication of what kind of person it might be. Traditionally, long skinny triangles and sharp points spell danger and are useful to show a villain, while round shapes indicate friendliness and harmlessness.

By observing these two people closely and analyzing the shapes in their faces, I was able to remember enough of their features to draw them from memory later. The round faced man really did shine with love for everyone. The long faced man did not actually look villainous--just haggard and tired.

With a little more exaggeration, these faces could become a true villain and a truly jovial wise old man, for use in a story.

BTW, the round faced man is a Sufi teacher from Turkey I went to see last night, and the long faced man is his translator.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I'm back! and working hard on character development, life drawing, and watercolor technique.

How do I illustrate the magic of the woods?
Good heavens, it's been nearly a month since I last posted!
If you've been following my watercolor techniques series and I have left you hanging, I'm sorry. It's
January, my time of going inward—and perhaps yours as well. And...well, there's something about getting immersed in Christmas activities and turn of the year introspection that erases last year's concerns. Some of them.

I'm all on fire for new projects and new learnings.
And for delving into projects I've put on hold for years.

Oh, I haven't forgotten you, those of you looking for watercolor techniques.  I'm honing my skills in this medium, which means re-visiting some basic techniques.  Please do come along for the ride!

This year—well, at this moment anyway—I've put aside my painting on silk to focus on storytelling in words and images.  I've stories to tell! Some are mine, some are the stories of people dear to me.

I have much to learn about how to illustrate my stories. How to draw characters so that you can see who they are and a bit about how they think. How to paint the magical/real world my characters live in. How to show you the magic I experience on the beach and in the woods.

my first ever children's book was Atom's Monster
First on the agenda is my upcoming show at the Vashon Tea Shop. I've decided to show some of my progression illustrating fantasy, starting with my book Atom's Monster and ending with my current project, which I am calling “the Troll Story”. This show opens February 5th at the Vashon Tea Shop, 17610 Vashon Hwy SW, Vashon, WA 98070, reception 6:00pm to 8:30 pm. I hope to see you there. 

I will be showing unpublished paintings as well as published illustrations.

Concurrently, I am developing my skills in figure drawing, character development, and watercolor painting. I have found teachers online, in books, and in the studio.

For figure drawing, I am drawing with Will Forester and Mike McGrath in the studio. Also, I am using Mike Mattesi's book Force as well as his online videos.

For character development, books by TomBancroft are my principle teachers.

I'm honing my watercolor painting skills with Imaginary Landscapes by Toni Smiber, and drawing inspiration from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

I am approaching this as my “art school”, expecting that I will have the discipline to “go to class” with my teachers consistently. Do you mind if I occasionally share here lessons from my studies? You will be exposed to some of my failures as well as successes.